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Why Your Essential Oils Won't Cure My Mental Illness

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Editor's Note

Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

First off, I am not just being an asshole. Believe me, I am fascinated by eastern medicine and holistic healing. I recently had a couple of Reiki sessions and it was literally mind-blowing. I felt like a million dollars after leaving.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

I believe food has the power to help heal us, but I also have less and less faith the food we have available to us (even if it’s organic, non-GMO, raised-from-birth-by-a-hippie-with-no-shoes certified) is truly what we think it is. I think decades and decades of “advanced technology” has left our food full of poison and depleted the nutrients it once had. Even when raised/captured in its most natural state, think about the poisons we have dumped on the Earth and in the ocean for decades.

My husband hunts and fishes. Wild meat is as “natural” and close to nature as you can get. However, what has that elk been grazing on for its lifetime? What mine-tailings found their way into the stream that we caught that trout from? I think about my Grandma’s garden. She didn’t use Roundup — that wasn’t a big commercial thing back then. But a couple of times each summer, that crop-dusting plane would fly low over our houses, spraying chemicals to keep the mosquitos at bay. That was 35 years ago. We have sprayed and pumped Lord knows what into our soil for years and years. We don’t know how long it lasts, how far it travels. Just now are we beginning to find out Roundup causes cancer in the most trivial of applications. It has been in use since the early ’70s. Think of everything else we’ve developed and because it has been FDA approved … we just start using it. It took 50 years after FDA approval for us to discover the peril of the use of Roundup. Lord knows what we will have discovered in the next 50 years.

But I digress …

Beyond the power of food, there are a million different things I believe without a doubt can have a positive impact on mental health. I believe in the power of essential oils and their ability to help calm nerves or lift you up. I believe in massage, in Reiki, in meditation. I have never tried acupuncture or a flotation tank, but I would like to. I believe in the power of “foresting” — getting outside and having your feet in contact with the Earth. I believe in prayer and spirituality. I believe all of the things.

But there is a problem.

I also believe in science. It’s taken me many years to come to terms with it, but I know my disease is no different than if I had an underactive thyroid (which I do have also, and yes, friends have sent me the scary articles about how my underactive thyroid may be worse than just underactive, and I may not really have a mental illness at all — my thyroid could be causing all of the chemical imbalances and if I fixed it, I would be cured!)

I also believe in myself. I believe I know my body pretty well, and my brain better. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 35, but when diagnosed realized I had experienced my first episode was at 17. I am envious of people with my diagnosis (bipolar 1), or any diagnosis, who feel they can get by without medicine. I salute you and hope that works for you forever.

However, I cannot.

I know I cannot because I’ve tried countless times. I also know that meds are a tricky beast, as sometimes something that has been working for a few years just … stops. I’ve been on the roller coaster path of trying to find a new combination that will work dozens of times. I’ve been on cocktails of meds that made me zombie-like, and I’ve decided to go off meds and go it with prayer and meditation and diet and all the things.

It sucks. I hate it. I hate this disease. But I also know that to survive for my husband, for my children, I have to keep trying. I have to do whatever comes next. I have to use medications. I also know medications don’t do it alone. I have a wonderful therapist who I’ve been with for four years. She has been the constant who not only keeps me going, but has helped me recognize triggers and patterns. Most importantly, when I’m really not doing well because my meds have stopped working, or I’m in the middle of a change, she is the anchor who keeps me going while I go through another round of medication roulette.

She is also covered by my insurance.

So is “western medicine.”

Do you know what isn’t?

Reiki, acupuncture, essential oils, yoga classes, massage, cranialsacro therapy and a trip to a shaman to experience ayahuasca. So while I add those things in as much as I can afford them; the harsh reality is I am doing the best I can with the resources I have. I am moving forward day by day. Some days it’s harder than others, some days it’s easier. But I’m still here. I’m still standing. Today.

So yes, I will continue to pray and meditate and have a Reiki session when it’s in the budget, but please — please — put the newest article you found on how “food can cure mental illness” and “things your pastor told you” aside, and just take me as I am. Take others as they are. I know that I am very fortunate to have good insurance that covers most of my medications and my therapist. I know that many, many people with mental illness don’t even have that luxury. (That is a whole other article — I don’t know how they do it at all …) So be gentle. There is a difference in being supportive and continuing to come at someone with “cures.” Most of the people I know who are struggling with mental illness are doing the best they can with what they have. Compassion goes a whole lot further than the latest article from WebMD. Be open, listen, reserve judgment. But thank you … thank you for caring.

Getty image by m-imagephotography

Originally published: December 26, 2019
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